Ten years later, an eighteen year old Buford was attending the senior prom in the Sitwell High School gymnasium, clad in a hand me down baby blue tuxedo that had once belonged to his father. He was manning the punch bowl because he felt that gave him an actual, legitimate reason to be there.
“Date?” Buford said as he ladled some punch into a glass for Bernice Fuller. She wore a black dress and her hair had been died a fresh coat of pink. “Psssh. Please. I aint got no time for dates, what with me being here, performing a much needed community service by making sure no one here goes thirsty.”
Bernice smiled. “That’s mighty nice of you, Buford.”
“Don’t I know it,” Buford said. “Someone’s gotta set an example for our nation’s youth, what with the Paris Hiltons and Lindsey Lohans of the world getting themselves arrested and all.”
“OK then Buford,” Bernice said as she slinked away. “I have to go be…anywhere but here now.”
“Oh sure, sure,” Buford said. “That’s cool. Go gut a rug. Maybe later when I’m done serving all this punch we’ll boogie down to some T-Pain or some Maroon 5 or something.”
“What?” Bernice said as she tapped her ear. “Sorry! Can’t hear you! Music’s too loud.”
As the sounds of the late 2000s filled the gym, Buford look across the sea of dancing teens to find a young, overweight girl with glasses and braces sobbing alone, up high in the bleachers.
Buford spit into the palm of his hand, used it to wipe down a cow lick, then ladled out two glasses of punch. He took one more look at the young lady, then took a deep breath.
“Just what I need,” Buford said. “Someone as hard up as I am. Thank you, Jesus.”
Buford mustered up all of his courage, marched up the bleachers and handed the girl a cup. She looked up, confused.
“Sorry to bother you, Sally,” Buford said. “But as this social function’s duly designation punch monitor it came to my attention that all this crying you’re doing has most likely left you dehydrated and therefore it is my duty to help you replenish your fluids.”
Sally took the cup and sipped. “It’s good.”
“Made it myself,” Buford said as he took a seat next to Sally. “The key ingredient is extra fruit punch powder.”
Sally laughed and dried her eyes. “OK.”
“Sally,” Buford said. “Might I be so bold as to inquire why you’re up here, looking so forlorn while all the action is down there on the dance floor?”
“I could ask you the same question,” Sally said.
“Oh, you know,” Buford said. “I had many offers to dance but my duties as a punch monitor comes first.”
Sally giggled. Buford was confused by this because he was only being funny on an unintentional level.
“I was making out with Chad Becker…”
“Ugh,” Buford said. “That cro-magnon?”
“Whatever,” Sally said. “He’s Chad Becker. He’s Captain of the football team. He’s hot.”
Buford sighed. “I must admit that if I were the owner and proprietor of a vagina, the sight of him would probably make it tingle or…do whatever vaginas do. I don’t know. I’m not well versed in the gynecological sciences.”
“We were out on the football field,” Sally said. “Behind the bleachers there and we got to talking, sharing our dreams. He told me he wants to be an NFL football player.”
“He’ll be lucky if he gets accepted at Sitwell Community college,” Buford said.
“I told him about my dream to become a pop star,” Sally said.
“You sing?” Buford said. “I had no idea.”
“Mostly in the shower,” Sally said. “I never had the guts to go out for the school chorus or anything.”
“I bet you’re really good,” Buford said.
“I think so,” Sally said. “But Chad laughed at me and called me a whale and told me that no one with a butt as big as mine would ever be accepted as an internationally beloved singing sensation.”
Sally broke out into tears and buried her face into Buford’s shoulder. Buford took full advantage of the situation, rubbing his hand up and down Sally’s back and saying, “There, there” as he sniffed her perfume.
“I’m sorry,” Sally said. “I don’t mean to put all my problems on you.”
“That’s ok,” Buford said, enjoying the first snuggle of his entire lifetime. “Put them all on me.”
“It’s just that,” Sally said. “I’m worried because he’s probably right. I mean, look at me. I’m fat and I have glasses and braces. The world would never love me. I don’t even think any man could ever love me.”
Buford felt his body getting all warm and fuzzy. He pulled out his collar for some air. “Oh, I don’t know about all that. I bet there’s a man out there for you.”
“You think so?” Sally asked.
“I know so,” Buford said. “Maybe closer than you think.”
Sally took the hint. The youngsters pursed their lips and were about to press them together when Buford found himself being unceremoniously cock-blocked by a young, more studly than ever Chad Becker.
“Turdford!” Chad said, using the nickname that he’d saddled Buford with years earlier. “What the hell, bro? You’re reeling in Sally the Whale? Avast, matey! Thar she blows!”
Throughout his entire existence in the Sitwell public school system, Buford had taken Chad’s abuse without offering the slightest amount of a struggle. However, something about this situation was different. Sally’s honor had been slighted, and the young nerd did not care for it one bit.
“Take that back,” Buford said.
Chad began making garbled up whale calls. “What you gonna do, Turdford? Take your date out for a night on the ocean and a side of krill?”
Sally cried. Buford balled up his fist and seethed with rage as Chad dumped the contents of a little nip bottle into a glass of punch.
“Did you just perform an unapproved punch spike?” Buford asked.
“Sure did, whale lover,” Chad said. “What are you gonna do about it?”
Buford took a swing, one that Chad easily sidestepped. This caused Buford to lose his balance and he tumbled down the bleachers, rolling down the steps over and over again until he landed on the gym floor.
The music stopped. All the kids watched as Sally ran down the steps to check on Buford.
“Are you okay?” Sally asked.
“Yeah,” Buford said as he rubbed his aching head. “I think so.”
Chad passed his drink to Sally. “Hold this.”
The football star proceeded to grab Buford by the underpants, which he then pulled and pulled and pulled until the elastic waistband snapped. Kids, teachers, everyone laughed.
A much younger Mr. Hogan walked over. “Break it up, break it up!”
“Mr. Hogan!” Buford said. “Thank God, you’re here.”
Mr. Hogan adjusted his glasses and looked down at Buford. “Oh it’s you.”
“What?” Buford asked.
“You always were a creepy little shit,” Mr. Hogan said. He looked to Chad. “As you were.”
Mr. Hogan walked away as Chad kicked Buford in the gut repeatedly.
“Think you can stand up to me nerd?” Chad asked as he continued his Rockette impression.
“Chad!” Sally said as she grabbed Chad’s arm. “That’s enough.”
Chad stopped kicking Buford. He took his drink back and guzzled it, then threw the empty cup at Buford’s head.
“You wanna get outta here?” Chad asked.
Sally looked around. “Me?”
“Yeah, you,” Chad said. “Unless there’s someone standing behind you, which is possible, because you know, you’re super fat.”
“But you called me a whale,” Sally said.
“Yeah,” Chad said. “But then I got to thinking, I’ve banged every girl in the senior class but you so I might as well complete the whole set, you know?”
Sally took Chad’s hand.
Ever so weakly, Buford held up his hand. “Sally…”
“I’m sorry, Buford,” Sally said as she walked away with the football star. “But he’s Chad Becker!”
“Aw yeah,” Chad said. “I’m Chad Becker, baby!” I’m gonna be awesome forever!”